– Life and death in Shanghai –

This is a wonderful story of determination and mental strength of a 51 year-old woman. A perfect book for International Women’s Day! Accused of being a spy, she survived more than six years of harsh imprisonment by the Red Guards in China. It is a story of adaptability, courage, and bravery. This is an autobiographical account of Nien Cheng who, after her husband died, became an assistant advisor to the manager of Shell Oil in China. Shell was one of the few companies that stayed on in China after the Communists came to power in 1949. Chinese by birth, Nien Cheng and her husband had been educated in England. Her husband was head of Shell Oil for many years. He died of cancer in 1957. Nien was then asked to assist in the running of Shell in China. In 1966 The Chinese Cultural Revolution burst onto the streets like the 1938 Nazi Crystal Night. It was a highly organised, political movement, aimed at removing all opposition, all disagreement to Mao Tse-tung. Anyone who showed the slightest opposition to his authority was murdered by the Red Guards. If you have read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, then you have a very good… Continue reading

Bhowani Junction by John Masters

There are many wonderful, interesting, absorbing novels that have slipped off the radar of popular books. One of them is Bhowani Junction, by John Masters. Perhaps the name was just too difficult to pronounce, but it never seemed to receive the attention it deserved. John Masters was born in Calcutta, India. The fifth generation of his family to have served in India. After being educated in England he returned to India in 1934 and joined the Prince of Wales’s Own Gurkha Rifles, then serving on the North-West Frontier. The partition of India was set forth in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Indian Empire and the end of the British control. It resulted in a struggle between the newly constituted states of India and Pakistan and displaced up to 12.5 million people with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to a million. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan. This is the background to the novel. The story is related first-hand in three separate narratives by the main figures: Patrick Taylor, Victoria Jones, and Rodney Savage. It is… Continue reading

The Eve of Destruction

THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION is a novel about America edging toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It would be a war that might kill hundreds of millions of people and poison the atmosphere for fifty years. In October 1962, American spy planes photographed missiles loaded with nuclear warheads in Cuba. The Soviet Union was installing the missiles, and they could reach targets in the USA within minutes. President Kennedy was trying to find a way out of the Cuban Missile Crisis without recourse to war. The US armed forces were confident about attacking the Soviet Union in one all-out nuclear war, certain they would win. President John Kennedy was doubtful about their advice and motives, cautious after they told him similar gung-ho things about the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The Eve of Destruction is the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  EXTRACT  Luke could hear the roar of the huge printing presses in the background. He was sitting opposite Walt who smiled delightedly, unable to understand what this was about. Luke listened to the sound and smell of the printing, he imagined the newspapers whizzing down to the collection point to be bundled; he could smell the… Continue reading

– The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time –

  According to Mystery Writers of America this is the 1995 list of The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time.     Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes (1887-1927) Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon (1930) Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery & Imagination (1852) Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time (1951) Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent (1987) John le Carré: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963) Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (1868) Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep (1939) Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca (1938) Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (1939) Robert Traver: Anatomy of a Murder (1958) Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye (1953) James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) Mario Puzo: The Godfather (1969) Thomas Harris: The Silence of the Lambs (1988) Eric Ambler: A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939) Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night (1935) Agatha Christie: The Witness for the Prosecution (1948) * Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal (1971) Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely (1940) John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (1980) Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment (1866) Ken Follett: Eye of the Needle (1978)… Continue reading